When my Dad joined Ministry of Home Affairs, his first posting was in Gangtok. It was the late 1960s and Sikkim was then not a part of India. The day my Dad set foot in Gangtok, he fell in love with the beauty of the place. In those days he was on deputation and had no fixed office. He was allotted a desk and chair inside the Royal Palace from where he used to carry out his official work. At night he used to stay with a Lepcha family. It was some kind of a rudimentary home-stay. Sikkimese people are great hosts and since ages, they have the custom to allow outsiders to come and stay in their house. Later, when Pawan Kumar Chamling became the chief minister of Sikkim he capitalised this custom and turned it into an industry. Today Sikkim is well known for its home-stays.
He was posted in Sikkim again in 1974-75 for the second time when Sikkim became a Union territory of India after abolishing the monarchy. This time he was not alone and my mother was with him. My father loved Sikkim whereas my mother hated the place. She admired the scenic beauty but the loneliness got the better of her. Being an extrovert my mom loved to talk and socialise but Sikkim in those days was nothing more than a jungle. She used to sit and cry on our veranda most of the evenings. Unlike Ma, I loved Sikkim as it was the place I grew up and till date consider it my home.
Going back to Sikkim after 14 years was awesome. This time it was even better as I took my son along to show him the place where his mother grew up. The trip was both nostalgic and simultaneously we were creating new memories. My son being brought up in Mumbai had no idea how life in the hills could be. He was surprised to find that his mom used to cross small waterfalls on her way to school. He was also amazed that the house where his mom stayed as a small girl had an amazing view of the Kanchenjunga.
Nowadays Gangtok has become a tourist hub. It is now a crowded city. I personally missed the previous beauty of Gangtok where everything used to be so serene and pristine almost untouched and virginal. I located the only Bengali sweet shop that we used to frequent back then on our weekly trip to the market. I also located the snack store where I used to love to eat samosa and amurti as a kid. Visiting a place where you have lived once always leaves you with renewed memories.
The only religious place that I love to visit again and again is Rumtek Monastery. It was wonderful to take my son to Rumtek. Whenever I feel depressed I think of the Buddha statue inside the monastery and immediately I feel rejuvenated. I feel a strong connection to this shrine that cannot be described in words.